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There are no ‘safe levels’ of asbestos - S&Ds push Commission for an ambitious first step towards Vision Zero


04 Oct 2021


Health & Consumers

Today, the European Parliament’s employment committee is voting to reduce the exposure of workers to asbestos, a number one substance known to cause cancer. The Commission is expected to present a legal proposal in 2022. The Socialists and Democrats call on the Commission to update, as a matter of priority, asbestos exposure limits by setting them at 0,001 fibres/cm3 (1 000 fibres/m3), strengthen a number of protective measures, notably safe removal, and work towards a global ban on asbestos.

Johan Danielsson, S&D MEP and responsible for the file on protecting workers from asbestos, said: 

“Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of work-related cancers in Europe. The research is clear - there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure. While the production and the sale of asbestos has been banned in the EU since 2005, and even before that in many member states, this dangerous substance still remains present in many buildings. This endangers the lives of millions of European workers.

“The Commission now has to prove they are serious about their commitment to the Vision Zero approach to work-related death by setting a strict exposure limit of 0,001 asbestos fibres/cm3.  To further protect workers, renters and building owners, we also want to see a public asbestos register, systematic screenings of buildings before sale or rent and stronger action against asbestos globally. Those workers who have already fallen ill from asbestos must have access to early diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and compensation.”

Agnes Jongerius, S&D spokesperson for employment, said:

“Asbestos is threatening the lives of millions of construction workers and firefighters, as well as home-owners and renters. With the deterioration of building stock, exposure levels are expected to rise.  As these buildings will be maintained, renovated or demolished, the health and lives of a whole generation of construction workers are put at risk.

“The Socialist and Democrats call for a European strategy to safely remove all asbestos from buildings to protect workers and inhabitants, now and in the future. It is time to create synergies between different policy sectors, such as ensuring financial support under the Green Deal’s Renovation Wave, the Circular Economy Action Plan to addresses construction and buildings, the New EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work to implement better protective measures, and the revision of the Asbestos at Work Directive 2009/148/EC to reduce exposure limits. Our ultimate goal is a global ban. Only an asbestos free-world is a safe world.”

Note to the editor:

52 % of annual occupational deaths in the Union can be attributed to work-related cancers, 80 % of occupational cancers recognised in the member states are asbestos related. The European Parliament estimates that the cost of occupational cancer in the Union accounts for between EUR 270 and EUR 610 billion per year, equalling 1,8% to 4,1% of GDP.



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